Archive for May 2016

Seven Things Every Druid Should Do   8 comments

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pinegrowth

New growth on the tips of our south boundary pines

[Thirty Days of Druidry 28]

“Should” is such a polarizing word. I write it here as a reminder most of all to myself. “Who are you to tell us what to do?!” Well, what difference does that make? If my suggestions are good, follow them. If they’re not, don’t. In the end, “who I am” really doesn’t matter much, does it? I’m not putting it out there as a distraction, so why let it be one for you? A road sign on a road you’re not travelling doesn’t apply to you, does it?

Besides, if my suggestions are good, you’re probably already practicing them in your own way.

(The next post will account for how well I follow my own advice.)

OK, here goes:

1–Druids should have a practice. I’m not saying what that is or should be, only that we each need one. Finding one we can stick with and make our own can be a deal of work. But without a practice, we lose focus, we fail to hear the hints — from others, from the green world, from dreams, from study and learning, from the nudge that comes in the shower or taking out the trash — that help keep us in balance. Otherwise, how are we more than armchair or coffee-table druids?

2–Druids should be able to talk about Druidry. Not proselytize. Not necessarily give interviews, record podcasts or lead workshops, unless that’s our thing. But if someone asks, a door is opening, and we can have an “elevator speech” ready. You know, an account of what we do, and how it makes a difference in our lives. One or two sentences can be enough. Otherwise, if we can’t manage that much, why are we doing what we do?

3–Druids should show their love of the earth. How we each do that is part of our own unique practice. Like all things, we have our birth and our bloom, our fruit and our fallow time. Otherwise, how do our lives build and contribute to this world we say we love?

4–Druids should keep learning. Neither we nor the world stands still, and much is stirring in many fields of learning that can enrich our practice, our knowledge, our awareness and our ability to work with the energies of the world for good. Otherwise, how else do we honor what we have been given?

5–Druids should respect their own needs. Our existences are such complex systems, and it becomes very difficult to fulfill the potential of our lives if pain, anger, illness, injury, or weakness overtakes us. It can be equally difficult to do more than we’re already doing if we have lives we live fully, without adding more than enough and driving us to a tipping point of imbalance. We should seek to know ourselves well enough to respect our own boundaries and limits, while asking which ones deserve to be there as supports, corner posts, roof-beams and garden fences, and which ones we can wisely transcend and grow beyond. Otherwise, how can we respect the same needs in others?

6–Druids should serve something greater than themselves. It may be a person, a spirit or god, a relationship, a practice, a community, a cause, an ideal, an institution, a way of life, a language — the possibilities are great. Otherwise, how do we give back and complete our half of the cycle?

7–Druids should listen more than they talk — and we talk a lot! By listening, we can hear music others miss, find beauty that others pass by, celebrate wonders that many children know but adults are coaxed to forget. Otherwise, how can we add our voices to the Great Song that sings each dawn, noon and sunset?

There’s my list. Anything you would delete, change, substitute? What “shoulds” do you follow on your own path?

 

 

Single Stories, With Children   2 comments

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In a recent NY Times article (“The Danger of a Single Story,” April 19, 2016), conservative columnist David Brooks writes,

As in life generally, every policy has the vices of its virtues. Aggressive policing cuts crime but increases brutality. There is no escape from trade-offs and tragic situations. The only way forward is to elect people who are capable of holding opposing stories in their heads at the same time, and to reject those who can’t.

There, right in our faces, the challenges of a “single story”: even as he strives to diagnose the dangers of binary thinking, Brooks beautifully illustrates it: “the only way forward.”

There are, of course, nearly an infinite number of ways forward. (The larger the group you look at, the fewer the ways. So look smaller, instead. We each of us will make, are making right now, our own ways forward, different from everyone else because we’re different. This post, this blog, is my set of ways. They don’t negate yours. Both-and, not either-or.)

Right now, more than in the past, we face difficulty identifying what “forward” looks like. Oh, there’s always a raucous chorus of voices who will tell you their versions. Mostly we suspect it’s “not what we have right now.” But that’s not at all the same thing as some kind of straight-jacket on reality that drops us into one kind of cosmic “only,” a limited-time offer from the gods.

[Pause for Druid meditation on the rhododendron almost ready to bloom, on the crab apple already loud with bees.]

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Back again. Readers of this blog know I work mostly in the personal as opposed to the political. And I’ll continue to insist they’re two distinct things. Of course they frequently intersect. Don’t most things in our universe?

Partly that’s a matter of scale. We’re beginning to realize, painfully, that we can only effectively know the local and personal. I can and do pretend from time to time to have wisdom about things outside my experience. (Sometimes I even get away with it.) Prophets and Wayshowers manage to pull it off with panache, and get others to buy in.

But as soon as I can, I’m taking this discussion out of the abstract and into the individual. Name a policy and I’ll show how it erases the unique, the personal, the distinctive. Policy tends to exemplify the tyranny of abstract, one-size-fits-all thinking. Draw a line in the sand and that line starts to matter more than people do, regardless of which side of the line they’re on. Is that ever right, we ask? And our answer determines our experience. There’s no such thing as free will — because we will it so.

[Pause for second Druid meditation, on appearances and other realities. Not just one reality. Boring. Not even just two. Almost as boring. Multiple, endless. Now we’re talkin’.]

I want to hold multiple stories in my head, not just one, even though I’m not running for office or proclaiming my way forward as the ONLY, as if all other options, all other universes, are BAAAAAD. No, I want to hold multiple stories because they’re beautiful, and beautifully true, together or separately, at one time or another. Each one a drop of dew, mirroring the blades of grass nearby, but also the sky. Dreamer, you cry. At the risk of riding on Lennon’s coattails, “you say I’m a dreamer, but …” We’re not there yet. That’s one thing dreaming’s for.

Fall in love with the universe, I hear, as both command and prayer, fall in love with it, and you don’t seek policies, you seek the beating heart of each thing, to know it better, to celebrate with it in its own way, orgy or restraint, sowing or boundary. Yes, as I plant my garden and keep out the rabbits and squirrels, and sweat a little in order to live here at all, I can celebrate at the same time. No single story for me. Work and rejoice. They’re not opposites. Things together. The universe, I find, is a marrying kind of place, for worse, and for better.

 

 

Thirty Days of Druidry 26: The Chew Toys of Druidry   Leave a comment

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For my birthday earlier this month, my father in law sent along a card with a cover picture of the four (five) characters from The Wizard of Oz. In the cartoon bubbles above each one are their familiar goals: a heart, some courage, a brain, a home — and Toto as a stealth fifth character gets his say, too: “Maybe a chew toy?”

Druidry has grown sufficiently into its potential that it has a green and beating heart. As for courage, many Druids do try to “walk their talk” as far as they can, at least keeping the two yoked together and pulling in the same general direction. Not all of us, and maybe not even a majority of us at any one time. But any is more than none, enough for a start, more than before. Step forward, live one’s values openly, whatever others may think of them, or quietly (still matters): against fracking, for preservation, against excess (except maybe during festivals, when mead and love-making and all-night drum circles get to play their vital parts in making Druidry just slightly less than completely respectable).

And against dogmatic certainty, if we can, allowing for enough skepticism that we swallow fewer baited hooks. Small successes: a river cleaned and reclaimed, legislation to preserve rather than consume (or at least consume and restore, replant, restock, re-establish). Is it enough, against the slide and careen of our times? We may not be able to know right now. Maybe our current pessimism is part of a useful course-correction, long in coming.

But it counts for something — all things have their weight and presence. The planet’s learning and growing too, a hive of beings that, if they soil their home, will nevertheless still die and be remade in some form, if only as atoms that were Christ and Hitler too, to work out all the consequences, bad and good together. If not me as me, some of my kin will be here in years to come. (Does it matter in one sense if I have been here before? I’m here now.)

A keen-edged kind of justice: the physical world doesn’t appear to do mercy, unless you count cosmic balance as a kind of far-seeing compassion, impersonal in its workings. The gods and spirits, I notice, do sometimes save, but not us from ourselves when we walk away from their counsel.

Brains, too, haven’t been lacking since Druidry’s earliest days, admittedly along with sometimes generous portions of looneyness. The Revival brought out themes and practices many Druid groups like OBOD still draw from, and the more purist Celtic Reconstructionists have increasingly founded their practices on what can be recovered from the past and from mostly careful and informed deduction.

As for a home, well, here we are. Living in and on it, nourished by it, drinking from it, giving back to it what we choose to give to future generations — to our future selves if you hold deeply to full-on recycling.

Which leaves the chew-toy. What things might correspond to that? The tides of current fashion and flaming opinion, sure. Scandal and media obsession, the so-called Witch Wars, the poly-, duo-, mono- and a- theist speculations that usually lead no further, sometimes, than mild clarification or further obfuscation. One or two or ten people finally turned toward practice rather than pontification. A slight deviation away from head-stuff, into things heads deal less well with, but other parts of us say home, home, I’m in native inner country here.

A seemingly casual and causal sidestep into worlds where those old questions get traded for quietly larger and equally old ones. The slant of sunlight at dawn. Dew on bare feet, now that summer’s nearing. Trill of birdsong. Instinct to breathe in the chi, prana, nwyfre, elan, vital energy alive and pulsing all around. Breathing it out as I live my life. A nudge, maybe no more, to serve in some specific way in my neighborhood: an old backyard dump to be cleaned up, a gathering to organize or attend, a seemingly chance conversation that changes the paths of the participants, infinitesimally, modestly, significantly. A move around or out-of-state. A relationship ending, a relationship beginning. A season to plant, to harvest, an injury healed, a new wrinkle, scar, perspective, discovery, wonderment.

What I chew on comes second. Remember, I say to myself, remember that sequence, that priority. My jaws don’t have to be the strongest thing about me.

Thirty Days of Druidry 25: Changes, Gods, Relationships   Leave a comment

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[Talach is the Druid name of a member of the Order of the Green Companions. Because of his support for this blog and its reaching 300 posts today, this guest post is an opportunity for him to share insight on an interesting situation presented to him. We have permission from the person identified below as M. to print this email exchange, with minimal editing to protect privacy.]

Dear Talach,

National-atlas-coloradoWhen you spoke after our Beltane ritual about ritual and non-ritual realities, I felt you might understand this problem I’m struggling with and maybe help. My partner and I are both Pagans, I’m a Druid and he’s pretty definitely a solitary Witch, so he doesn’t come to our gatherings. That’s fine. Recently we’ve been talking a lot and fighting a lot about the gods. He’s had some profound experiences with the Lord and Lady and as a result of their guidance he says he wants to make some BIG changes in our life together. Move out of state, off the grid, become self-sufficient, open our relationship, begin teaching and accepting students, etc. etc. There’s a group in Colorado he’s been talking with and he’s pretty focused on them. He met a couple members at a festival last summer.

I love this man, but and it’s a MAJOR but, I haven’t got any confirmation of this even after several months of divination and meditation and ritual. We’ve had some major blow-ups during this time. Part of our fighting comes because he says I don’t work with the gods because I don’t believe in them. He’s right about that last part. I don’t believe. All honor to Brighid and Lugh and the goddess at rituals and as forms of power to work with. But I’ve never experienced them as REAL outside of rituals. I want to hold on to this person and relationship if we can make it work. But my partner wants to make these changes NOW, at the latest definitely before midsummer. Where do we go from here?

M.

Dear M.,

Thanks for your note. You’re dealing several challenges here. Your partner wants changes you’re clearly not sure about. You’re facing a deadline. And part of the decision has been made to hinge on your awareness of the gods who speak to your partner about these changes but not to you.

What’s the most important issue here? It sounds like for you it’s your relationship. Is that true for your partner, too? What’s between you and the gods, or whether life is better somewhere else than where you are, are separate things to consider. You don’t say anything about jobs or housing or other assets, which are a big factor for you yourself, here and now, not just in Colorado or other place you or he may go, alone or with a partner.

So you can ask yourself a hard question, M., and if you do, be ready for the answer: is your relationship important enough for both of you to make it the center of any decision? This is separate from the gods or any deadline. If you and your partner can’t agree on that, you need to work through that, apart from Colorado or your openness to divine guidance. If you’re still both committed to each other and you both have some flexibility, could you try out the Colorado possibility for just a few months to see how it might fit you both?

gardeningOf course you may not be able to just pick up and leave. Your partner is asking for many changes, not just one, and with a deadline. Why the rush? Why midsummer? If it’s just to get a big garden going, can you do that where you already are? Try becoming more self-sufficient now, apart from the Colorado decision. If neither of you have spent much time growing and preserving your own food, that’s also something to try out close to home first, if you can. That’s a big enough change by itself. Pots and window boxes can help you grow a fair bit even if you don’t have much or any garden space. I urge smaller steps if you can, to make any changes easier to look at and consider and work with one by one.

Blessings to you both, M.

Talach

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IMAGES: Colorado map; gardening.

Thirty Days of Druidry 24: Playing the Druid Card   1 comment

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Could I be the Mage,
or might I be the Fool?
Should we learn to use our cards
like any kitchen tool?

When I search for wisdom,
when I peruse old lore,
do I seek just kicks and tricks
or something worth much more?

Is my quest a question,
things I already know,
or an “undiscovered country”
I rediscover as I grow?

/|\ /|\ /|\

If “playing the _____ – card” means to take (unfair) advantage of some given of our identities, what might it mean to play the Druid card? Well, it certainly gains us nothing with either the gods or local land spirits.

Druid-card Holder (DCH): “Hey! I’m a Druid!”

Land Wight (LW): “Welcome. Have you listened to the land, spent time hearing what it has to teach, growing a portion of your own food on it, and feeling how each season and its energies shape the lives of all the creatures on it, including you? Have you, in four words, lived where you live?”

DCH: Well, no …

LW: Go away and do not return until you learn reverence.

Print

“I invoke you, goddess, for a change.”

Let me try again. If I live where I’ve lived, rather than almost anywhere else, I accept the gift of responsibility. Usually the word sounds heavy — something people try to flee rather than to welcome. But let me do my Bard word trick once more. I know I’ve often walked away from my response-ability, my ability to respond. I turn it off, drown it out, change channels, either because it’s painful or too demanding or or or. Third time’s the charm: find three or’s and I can successfully escape my ability to respond and maybe spend my whole life in someone else’s dream rather than one of my own. Success!

I often explore my own “weaknesses” because I find I learn more from them than from my strengths. (“Could that be one of their uses?! Hmm.”) We’re so accustomed to others being down on themselves that you may hear this as more of the same. No. I gain strength and insight from such cool, steady gaze. Don’t misunderstand. I’m as good at denial, deflection and depression as the next fellow. A 3-D life! A modern Western triad!

But what I want to get better at are the finely-tuned opportunities my weaknesses constantly point me toward. Lack something, and I sensitize myself to it everywhere around me. My lack magically energizes the thing to keep knocking at the door of my life. But rather than turning to my ability to respond, my responsibility, I do everything to reject the thing I said I wanted. But no worries, mate: it doesn’t actually vanish. It will keep knocking until I let it in. “Ask (I keep asking all the time) and it will be given to you; seek (we never really give up seeking, just take breaks for a day or a decade) and you will find; knock (oh, how it will knock back, friend!) and the door will be opened to you.”*

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Bala Lake in Wales, where Gwion Bach begins his adventure of transformation

More and more it seems that rather than missed opportunities, there are only ones I keep rejecting. If I really do “miss” one, it will re-group and when necessary take another form in order to reappear down the road and insert itself into my life. Come around the next turn and — ah! There it is, possibly in a guise more difficult to ignore, less easy to escape at all.

My fate pursues me like yours does you, like Ceridwen pursues Gwion through all his transformations. I might even evade my fate for a life or two, come back in another body, gender, set of circumstances, with a “clean slate” so to speak. Except not really. My one life is with me, my responsibility sharpens, clarifies, till I can live it fully, because there’s nothing else I can do, even if I wanted to.

That’s one corner of my “Druid card” — at least, living where I’ve lived, as I understand it so far. What’s yours?

/|\ /|\ /|\

When I respond, link, connect, then I “beltane.” Let’s make it verb … Not to cheapen it, market it, no. To sanctify it. And you, my kin, my readers, when you last beltaned, what did you discover?

“Beltane is so much about the urge to connect, to blend and merge; to feel a part of something extraordinary; to at once lose one’s sense of self in that merging but also to paradoxically feel more absolutely and truly oneself because of it. In the desire to penetrate life’s mysteries, we need also to open ourselves to them, surrendering to the power of love that it may have the opportunity to transform us. Great things are born in us at such moments of union; this place of merging is where the tap root of our creativity feeds, without it we feel dry and disconnected. If that magical, alchemical moment of connection and merging were a colour, I suspect it might be perceived as many beautiful, vibrant shades but its foundation, I feel sure, would be the green of spring: ecstatically joyful – the irrepressible life and desire that leads us to love.” — Maria Ede-Weaving

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IMAGES: Ceridwen Centre logoBala Lake.

*Matthew 7:7 — an excellent Druidic number!

Updated 9 May 2016

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